Bake Me! Ridiculously easy dairy-free hazelnut, chocolate and banana loaf

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A few weeks ago, Freddie and Sasha were diagnosed as being cow-dairy intolerant (more on this to follow). Obviously as a family who like their food, and with children who are (thankfully) good eaters, this foray into a dairy-free zone has been a little challenging (wot, no cheese guv?!), although we are starting to get used to it.

Luckily, I’m not afraid to don my pinny and give something new a bash, so the other weekend, I decided to give my version of a dairy-free chocolate loaf cake a go. This is the first time I’ve ever made a cake through instinct alone (good job I was writing down how much of everything I was using as I went along!), and amazingly it turned out really well. I bunged all the ingredients into our Kitchen Aid mixer (yup, I’m technical like that), before tipping them out into a greased (dairy-free, natch) loaf tin. I then baked it in a pre-heated oven (180 degrees c) for 45 minutes, until a skewer came out of the cake clean. It really is THAT easy, and we all thoroughly enjoyed it (tis perfect with a cuppa!).

You will need:

  • 3 mugs* self-raising flour
  • 1 mug caster sugar
  • 2 packets of dairy-free chocolate buttons
  • half a cup dairy-free cocoa powder
  • handful of chopped walnuts
  • 1 egg
  • 1 mug hazelnut milk (I used Alpro)
  • A large banana, mashed

*I just used a standard-sized tea mug for measuring most of the ingredients.

Linking up with Honest Mum’s Tasty Tuesdays! 

Lately…

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Walking hand in hand with cousin Elsie// Watching Adam play cricket the other Sunday- a real olde worlde village location!// Our little bath dweller, he can’t get enough of water// Our pot of hydrangeas flourishing, I love looking at them from the kitchen// I love this playsuit I picked up for Sasha, it just screams ‘summer’!// An afternoon baking// Peach and mint ice tea at a Cafe near Borough Market- all the best enjoyed when one child is at preschool and the other is napping in the buggy next to you!

10 things to do in London with young children (some may surprise you!)

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I have been asked a few times lately by different people: “Where’s good to go in London with children?”. As someone who is bringing up children within the Big Smoke, we sometimes take it for granted that this city really is our playground, and it’s second nature to me take a two and three year old, alone, on the bus/train/tube/walking with a buggy and various other paraphernalia that comes with going out and about with small people. So… with the long summer holidays upon us (oh preschool, I will miss you!), I thought I would share my favourite places to go, and any tips that I’ve learnt throughout my time here.

1. The splash fountains at City Hall

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When the weather is hot, we love to hop off the train/tube at London Bridge, and head along Tooley Street, to the splash fountains by City Hall. A magnet for children on a hot day (bring a towel and swimwear!), you can easily lose a good half hour letting your little one have fun in the water. Freddie absolutely ADORED it here, and it’s such a joy to watch, with breathtaking views of Tower Bridge and The Gerkin whilst you do so. There is a ‘Strada’ cafe/restaurant next to the fountains, but if you bring a picnic, you can head the really short walk from here towards Tower Bridge, and on the right hand side past City Hall is a large grassy area where you can sit. This has such a good vibe in the early evening, with families mingling with post-work drinkers happily, and often live music playing from ‘The Pit’ nearby.

2. The Science Museum:

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Here is possibly one of the first London venues that springs to mind when it comes to where to take your children, but I have a few hints and tips if you’re taking a toddler. The basement is where it’s at for under-6s. My two could spend all day here, and we need never see daylight again! With a waterway play system, wheelbarrows and giant lego bricks, a bean bag pully platform system, plus music and sensory areas, there is just so much to do, and the staff I’ve come across have been super-friendly. I try and get there for opening at 10am, as is quiet to start with, before heading to the staggered seating (also in the basement) for an early packed lunch about 11.30am. By the time we’ve finished this and head to the ground floor to the Pattern Pod (an amazing place for puzzles and sensory for smalls), it’s quiet- everyone else has then gone to lunch! I’ve got this timing down like a pro! I was also chatting to a member of staff on our last visit, and she gave me a tip for the summer holidays. She said it is busy most of the time regardless of the weather, but on a sunny day is REALLY quiet from about 3pm. I am going to try this time in the hols, and then bring a picnic tea to have afterwards.

3. Tate Modern:

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This might be the last place you’d think of to take a young child, but it’s surprisingly toddler-friendly! Okay, so you don’t want them going bonkers, screaming and climbing over the art, BUT… there is still lots of space for them to move around freely and loads to look at and talk about. I took Sasha the other week when F was at preschool, and people there were positively BEAMING at her, and a couple said to me how nice it was to see little ones around the place. On the 3rd floor near the cafe is an interactive drawing centre for children, where they can scribble something and see their creation appear on a big screen in front of them. The shop here is where I pick up unusual and/or beautifully illustrated books for the children too. Outside the front of the Tate Modern building is a large grassy area, so again, great for bringing a picnic and meeting friends, with a lovely view of St Pauls and the river. Worth a punt if this is your sort of thing, and there are often special events and exhibitions on that are suitable for children. We went to the Damien Hirst one a couple of years ago, and a tiny toddler Freddie was fascinated by the pickled animals and a temporary butterfly house (with real butterflies!). Win for grown ups = win for children.

4. The Southbank:

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If you avoid the manically busy part of it near the London Eye and Aquarium and head east, it’s the perfect place for your toddler to blow off some steam and walk safely along the near-totally pedestrianised river front. With eateries aplenty, plus buskers and street shows galore, it’s a great way to view the London skyline, and my two always love watching the boats speed by. ‘Giraffe’ is our favourite spot for lunch, and is under the National Theatre, but I always get here for 11.45am in order to get a table and be served fairly quickly. Further down towards London Bridge, past the Tate Modern, there is a Zizzis, Pizza Express, plus numerous pubs and cafes. A good cafe to stop for a break halfway between the The London Eye and London Bridge is Cafe Nero under the OXO Tower- nearly always pretty quiet with a large downstairs loo and baby changing, so a great stop off for little legs.

5. Borough Market: 

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Since our train comes into London Bridge most of the time, this is often one of our first stops when we hop off. We are a bit naughty and don’t always buy something (although most of the time we do, the quality and variety of food is awesome!), but most stalls have trays of ‘tasters’ for you to try. This is great for little ones, and F and S have enjoyed trying out many different samples of cheeses, breads, meats and chocolate brownies in the past! Most stall holders are keen to encourage children to try something new food-wise, so it’s definitely worth a visit and don’t be shy asking! With Freddie I often play a game and get him to guess what he is eating- some of the answers are hilarious, but it gets him thinking about different flavours and about where food comes from. Good fun if you don’t have a picky eater!

6. Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood:

A fairly new discovery for us. Mum and I took F earlier this year and had a blast! It’s free to get in, has a huge buggy park in the lobby, and most importantly there is loads to do and look at for kids, plus you get a trip down memory lane! There are displays of toys from every era (I got nostalgic pangs seeing Sylvanian Families and old skool fisher price toys), plus the chance for children to get involved. For example, there are rocking horses for little ones to ride if they are not Freddie, he hated them and an interactive corner, where staff are on hand to demonstrate different toys before your child has a go themselves. When we went there was Duplo and Lego, Scalextric and slinkys, which F was quite taken with. The cafe there is great, and there is a soft play area for under 3s. The museum is on the Central Line, but since Bethnal Green tube station isn’t very buggy-friendly, we got the bus instead and it wasn’t especially busy, even on a Saturday.

7. Shoreditch/Columbia Road flower market:

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Okay, so this is more adult-orientated, but it shows that you can do some of the things you want to do in even the most built-up areas with kids in tow. We love Columbia Road flower market, and just off here is Ravenscroft Park, a big grassy space and playground which is a playtime oasis right in the middle of blocks of flats. Adam often stays with the kids whilst I peruse the flowers- anytime after about 10am is not particularly buggy-friendly. You need to get here for 8am in order to browse stress-free with smalls!

8. Mudchute Farm:

Another gem that we love, right in the heart of the Docklands! Hop off the DLR at Island Gardens or Mudchute (the DLR is a dream for buggies), and head to this brilliant urban farm. It’s amazingly free to get into (although donations are always welcome), and in a surprisingly big space there are loads of animals for little ones to see, all with Canary Wharf in the background. There is a reasonably priced cafe that is open on the weekends and in the school holidays, although this does get busy quickly. This place is probably best-suited to preschoolers, as older children might find what’s on offer a bit more limited.

9. The Shard

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A surprising hit with our two, especially Freddie, we went here in April for Adam’s birthday. If you have a train-mad small person it’s fantastic- you get a bird’s eye view of the track and trains in and out of London Bridge, heading to various other stations. F could have spent ages lying down on the floor by the window and watching them! Sasha was a bit more restless, but there is loads of room on the viewing platform for them to run around, and you don’t annoy anyone as numbers of people are kept to a minimum. Well worth the money, with or without children.

10. Camden/Primrose Hill/London Zoo

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As someone who lived in Camden for a few years pre-children, I can safely say that you want to avoid Camden Market with young children on a weekend- it is HELL with a buggy. Also, Camden Town tube station operates a policy on a Saturday whereby you can only use the crazy amounts of stairs to go down to the platform, rather than the escalator, so you will want to avoid here also. During the week is the best time to go- all the fabulous shops and food stalls are still open and there is much more room to enjoy them freely. However, if you do want to go on a Saturday or Sunday, arrive EARLY, and either hop on a bus here, or you can get the tube to Chalk Farm (there are a few steps here, but okay if you’re with someone to lift a buggy, and I find most people always help if you are on your own). If you hop off at Chalk Farm, you can turn left out of the station and walk the short distance to the market. After you’ve had a browse, head back towards Chalk Farm, and before you reach the tube, turn left down Regents Park Road, and left again over the pedestrianised railway bridge, and this brings you to Primrose Hill. If you walk straight down Regents Park Road after you’ve crossed the bridge, and past all the shops, you’ll get to Primrose Hill itself. This is a perfect place to bring a picnic, or some food from Camden Market (Primrose Hill delis are PRICEY!). The view from the top of the hill is incredible, and there is acres of space for smalls to run around, plus a fantastic playground and decent public toilets. Primrose Hill is also right next to London Zoo, but you might be a bit knackered to it all in one day! Alternatively we’ve been to the zoo early doors, and then headed to Primrose Hill and the playground after for a picnic. The photo of Sasha (above) is her first trip here, where we had some lunch and Freddie ran around like a loon!

These 10 are just for starters, there is SO much to do in this fabulous city!

Where are your top spots in London for taking little ones? I’d love to hear!

HEMA comes to Brommers!

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When I was contacted by the Dutch retail giant, HEMA, asking me if I’d like to come along to the opening of their new store in Bromley and shop, I’m not going to lie- I had never heard of the chain that is uber-popular in the rest of Europe (where have I been hiding?!). A quick Google post-weekend trip away had me dashing for my keyboard and saying “Yes, please!”.

You see, if you love Ikea, or Danish shop ‘Tiger’, you will LOVE HEMA. Brimming with all sorts of items in a mostly quirky, yet streamlined style, there is something for everyone here. Put it this way: FC will be stopping by here this Christmas to fill my little cherub’s stockings. So with Freddie in tow (I had abandoned the grumpy two year old at home with my Mum), we hit HEMA to see what we could find…

First stop for F was the kids section (natch). His eye was immediately caught by some wooden vehicles, and I was impressed by the current choice of outdoor/splash toys. As well as the usual paddling pools and buckets and spades, they had a few unusual items, like ‘sea treasure’, which I would definitely have bought for the kids if they had been a bit older.

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What’s nice about HEMA is despite being crammed so full of ‘stuff’, the layout is surprisingly spacious, with room in the middle of the store to actual breathe and look for the clearly labelled sections. This is important to me, as for someone who doesn’t like going shopping that much (yes, really!), I don’t like being cooped up in a shop and overwhelmed. Being able to find what I’m looking for quickly and easily is pretty crucial, otherwise I get the hell out of there!

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Whilst Fred was checking out the small peoples section with Katrina and Alison (oh hi! – there are loads of us bloggers from this neck of the woods!), I investigated the craft and stationery section. When is comes to these sort of shops, the selection and price of this sort of stuff cuts the wheat from the chaff as far as i’m concerned. And I wasn’t disappointed. Out of everything they sell in HEMA, I feel this is where you get great choice and value for money, and where frankly, I could have shopped like a lunatic. Restraining myself, I carefully chose some stickers for Sasha (obsessed is not the word for her), some ink stamps for F and S to share, and some wooden stamps for me. I am also eyeing up some more stickers, pom pom kits, pretty postcards, gift wrap, party gear, plus more wooden stamps for another visit.

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Other shop highlights include the great selection of nail varnishes colour-wise (yet to be chip-tested mind!), and make up brushes. If you’re not going the whole hog and investing in some MAC ones, then these here are very competitively priced, and cheaper than most other places.

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On another visit, I will also be back to shop the baking section, as I’m always a sucker for some nice looking cake-friendly bumph (to add to my already rammed baking cupboard!).

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So, after spending a good hour filling our basket and trying to avoid Freddie taking out peoples ankles with it here is what we trotted on home with…

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1 lemonade dispenser – £4:

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Some wooden play scales – £8.50:

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1 wooden police car -£6:

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1 acrylic vehicle glass – £2:

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3D stickers – £1:

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Ink stamps – £2.50 (bargain!):

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Wooden stamp set – £2.50 (another bargain!):

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8 small rubber cars – £1.25:

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and finally… a comb for Freddie as embarrassingly he doesn’t have his own one, we have been using our fingers for ages! £2:

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Total cost – £29.75.

Which I think is pretty good value for money for all these items.

Would I go back? More than likely, especially for the stationery and baking gear. HEMA is a very welcome addition to Bromley indeed!

Thank you so much to HEMA for letting F and I shop with them! I was given a gift card to spend for the purpose of my visit.

 

Our week in numbers…

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Good morning and Happy Thursday! I have to say that I’ve been suffering from blogger’s-block this last week or so- I’m afraid that I’ve had zero motivation to open the laptop and post, which I think happens to everyone from time to time. Couple that with being uber-busy in other areas of our lives, and my laptop has had a tumbleweed blowing across it! Back on track now, thankfully!

Anyway, here is the last week or so in numbers…

40 : the number of minutes Freddie spent playing in the water fountains by City Hall last Friday, before he finally declared he was ‘cold’! It was a boiling hot day, and has a great view of The Gerkin across the river, as well as Tower Bridge.

3 : The number of people in our little family who have now been diagnosed as cow-dairy intolerant. I will write a bigger post on this soon, but for now it is making food shopping rather challenging! I guess it’s something that we will get used to, at least for the next 3 months or so, until small amounts can then be gradually re-introduced.

5.30 : The average time one or both children is waking in the morning at the moment. K.n.a.c.k.e.r.e.d. doesn’t cover it right now!

1 : The number of World Cup games I have actually watched from start to finish. This was the Brazil-Germany game the other night, still can’t believe the result!

2 : out of 3 races Freddie won at his pre-school sports day. I know they’re only 3, and it really doesn’t matter if they win, it’s just for fun etc, but a small part of me felt very proud. The kid is a speed-demon, the video has to be seen to be believed!

6 : hours spend shopping for bridesmaids dresses for my BFF Katie’s wedding. Some of those hours MIGHT have been spent in Starbucks and shopping for other clothes and shoes too…

10 : the number of phone calls made trying to sort out booking a boat for the evening bit of our wedding next year. STILL yet to put a deposit down, aaargh!

2 : weeks left until pre-school ends for the summer holidays. Still slightly nervous as to how I’m going to entertain a 2 and 3 year old for the whole 6 weeks, especially since they are fighting a lot right now, and the aforementioned 2 year old has pretty much stopped napping… I’ll get back to you on that one!

1634 : the number of people I had visiting this blog in one day after Ikea featured Freddie and Sasha’s room tours on their facebook and pintrest accounts (thank you, Alice!). It might not sound a lot to biggie bloggers, but was a whopper of a day stats-wise for me!

4 : different lovely people who helped me negotiate all the steps with a Sasha-filled buggy at Victoria and South Kensington stations on Monday. I was taking her to the Science Museum, and getting there was tricky as the stations and tube were packed and there are no lifts, but people like these restore my faith in humanity. Not one for the faint-hearted though!

xxx

Mini Montessori: Life Skills- Peeling & Chopping Fruit & Veg

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If you’ve read my blog previously, you will know that I am quite keen on the principles of Montessori when it comes to enhancing little one’s life skills and encouraging confidence and independence. We have done a few Montessori activities in the past (tweezer transferring,  peg dinosaurs and colander pipe cleaner threading), but it feels like aaages since we’ve had a go at something new: Enter, getting Freddie to prepare and chop his own fruit and veg for a snack for himself and Sasha. I personally think it’s great when children can start to do some basic life-skills by themselves, and I think you’re never too young to get involved with a bit of cooking and/or baking!

I went perusing the local kitchen shop for a peeler and a more toddler-friendly knife, and whilst I found the former, the lady in the shop was slightly horrified that I’d give my 3 year old a knife and didn’t have any suggestions (I OBVIOUSLY wouldn’t let him use it unsupervised!). In the end we just used a slightly serrated knife from one of his usual cutlery sets, and this actually did the job fine.

I was dead chuffed to be contacted recently by baby and toddler gift company, My First Years, and I knew I wanted to get my hands on this personalised chopping board from the moment I saw it! Freddie was delighted that he had his own board to go with his baking set, and thought it hilarious that he was “cutting onto the bunny’s face!”. I can verify that it doesn’t mark easily and washes well- something I’m always a bit dubious with when it comes to any wooden kitchen implement that needs washing and drying a lot. I’m definitely going to buy one for Sasha, otherwise she might feel a bit left out when the time comes for her to be getting busy in the kitchen!

Once Freddie was sat down, I let him choose which of the fruit and veg he wanted to get stuck into first. I then talked him through what he needed to do, before showing him how to hold and chop the banana, and how to hold and peel a bit of the carrot. I told him that as well as being used when eating dinner, knives are used for chopping and preparing food. I told him that we need to be careful with knives as they can be dangerous if not used safely.

He was pretty deft with peeling the carrot, and didn’t need much help or guidance with this. When it came to chopping the banana he needed a bit of help holding the knife in a ‘correct’ chopping grip, rather than stabbing it to death! I think this sort of fun activity is useful for F in particular, as he still struggles a little to hold a crayon or a pen ‘properly’, so in time his fine-motor skills should strengthen.

I was surprised at how careful he was when it came to cutting up the grapes, as I was a bit anxious that he avoid all finger-contact (!), but he was fine and actually very precise, plus was clearly proud that he had managed to cut them by himself.

All-in-all a success- and this little chap will definitely be called upon to help in the kitchen again soon!

Bunny chopping board c/o My First Years